FROM THE BOOK “THE BLUE EYED SIX” BY Edna Carmean: A true story from the late 19th century about four men who insured the town hobo and then hired a humble butcher and local ruffian to murder him so they could collect the insurance money…. all six having blue eyes!
CONFESSIONS: After George Zechman was granted a new trial, the other men requested the same but were refused. They all had professed their innocence but after two weeks of mulling their fate the pressure and the strain continued to build.
Henry Wise, known as the hymn-singer, was the first to crack. The Commonwealth attorneys spent two hours closeted with Wise but nothing was made public. Nevertheless, word spread like wildfire through the jail and the town that Wise had made a complete confession implicating the other men but exonerating himself. The court convened two days later and the room was jammed to the full. All the prisoners but Zechman filed into the room with Henry Wise bringing up the rear. Wise was noticeably shaken while the others remained hard faced and stern.
District Attorney Adams moved for the sentence to be announced on all but Wise. The prisoners were asked if they had anything to say about why the sentence of death should not be pronounced. The prisoners each responded. Drews: “Nothing, I am not guilty”. Hummel: “I have nothing to say at present.” Stichler, who trembled as he spoke: “I am not guilty, and I did not get justice here.” Brandt: “No, not now, but when the time comes, then I’ll tell.”
Judge Henderson said, “We have patiently considered and re-considered everything that has been advanced in your defense. Your cause has been zealously guarded by most able counsel. You are judged guilty of murder in the first degree and its punishment is death. It is wisdom to punish crime and has Divine sanction. We commend you to the mercy of Him who will hear the cry of the penitent and cleanse the guilty of all unrighteousness. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” (LOBO: Wow! You would never hear that kind of pronouncement in court today!) The judge continued, “It is considered by the Court, that you be taken by the sheriff to the prison from whence you came, and then to the place of execution within the walls of the jail yard of Lebanon County and there be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may God have mercy on your soul.” From that point on the team spirit of the Blue Eyed Six was breaking up. Zechman’s new trial was set for November and he was suspicious of Henry Wise since the judge didn’t pass sentence on him. The other five were convinced that Wise had made a deal with the judge by giving damaging information about them.
Charles Drews was the next to make a move and called for the Commonwealth attorneys and his story was printed in the newspapers. His testimony implicated the other five men as he told his winding tale from the first day going to Israel Brandt’s hotel the previous summer when Brandt, over a mug of free beer, asked him to drown Raber and he ended with the details of how Stichler, who he had asked to do the drowning, tossed Raber into the cold Indiantown Creek. He said that he didn’t even see Raber’s struggles and had not gone into the water. He also told of an earlier plot with other characters at Kitzmiller’s dam which was not carried through. When the DA asked him it there was anything else he said, “If you hang me you will hang an innocent man!”
Franklin Stichler was next as he called for his attorney, the Commonwealth attorney Gobin and the sheriff, plus a reporter from the Courier newspaper. When asked why he wanted to talk now he replied, “Because there is no hope for me. I know it. Nothing more can be done. I only want to tell the truth and have it known,” as tears ran down his face. Like Drews, he started at the beginning and told of meeting with “the four” conspirators at Brandt’s hotel when they revealed to him their plot. The next time he heard about it was when he was coming back from Harrisburg and ran into Drews, Peters and Raber returning from Kitzmiller’s dam, where they had a plan to drown Raber but didn’t follow through. Stichler went on to further implicate Peters as he revealed that he had gone to Jonestown to buy chloroform or ether to use on Raber but they ended up not using it. Then he gave the details of the afternoon of the drowning including that Drews had assisted by pushing on his shoulders in order to help him hold Raber under the water, which is in fact what Peters testimony had described. He finished with, “I make this confession because there is no hope for me and I want to tell the truth. This is a correct history of the affair and I am perfectly willing for it to be published.”
Israel Brandt was now ready to talk. There was considerable excitement in the town when this became known since he was considered to be the ringleader of the Blue Eyed Six. He was taken to sheriff Deininger’s office where his and the commonwealth council and one reporter was present. Brandt’s confession was more devious than the plan he designed in the first place! Of course it was everybody else’s fault. Wise was the mastermind who brought Raber, the insurance man and the doctor to his hotel to examine Raber. He was not involved at all, he was just a spectator! The insurance man owed him money and offered a policy on Raber in order to pay him back. He said, “I know nothing of a conspiracy to put Raber out of the way.” He described his involvement after the drowning, sending for the doctor and the coroner as acts of a good neighbor. He further accused Wise of forging his name to letters. He finished with, “I stake my eternal salvation upon the assertion that I know nothing of this conspiracy. I never offered Drews one cent or anything else to drown Raber.” (LOBO: So much for a confession!)
Hummel’s statement was brief. “I know nothing more of this thing except the policy of insurance which I got from Henry Wise. I bought it as others buy policies in that neighborhood. I didn’t have anything to do with the drowning, as sure as there is a God in Heaven!”
LOBO COMMENT: Who do YOU think was telling the truth? If you’ve been following this closely and recall all of the other testimonies it appears to me there is a bit of truth and lies in Drews and Stichler’s confessions, but I think Brandt and Hummel were totally fabricating! Of course Drews didn’t want to admit to pushing on Stichler’s shoulders in helping to drown Raber, which made him a direct accomplice in the murder. Stichler I believe was jealous of Peters who now had Lena all to himself, so he tried to implicate him and smear his reputation. A confession is not a confession if it is not true, period. The Lord knows the heart of every person, and it is best to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God!
Next: A Retrial Granted
THE BIBLE: I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one–fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God. (Psalm 32:5; Nehemiah 9:3)